With Valentines Day just one day away,we all have one thing on our minds…. chocolate. Well, maybe its only on the minds of us single folks who won’t be celebrating the holiday over an expensive dinner, but rather at home with a sappy movie and a large box of, you guessed it, chocolates. Like most relationships, chocolate sends us a lot of mixed messages: is it good for you, or is it not? Sometimes we love it, sometimes we vow to cut it out of our lives; it makes us feel good and it makes us feel guilty. With all of these conflicts, how are we supposed to know whether or not our relationship with chocolate is worth staying in? What better way to evaluate a relationship than the tried-and-true Pro/Con List:
Pro: People who eat chocolate are 37% less likely to develop heart disease than those who rarely eat it, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge. Chocolate contains Arginine, which releases a substance to dilate and relax arteries.
Con: As you probably already know, chocolate has a lot of calories, which is not something you want to be collecting if you are trying to lose weight.
Pro: Dark chocolate is made from roasted cocoa kernels, which are rich in antioxidants called flavenoids. Antioxidants work to help neutralize some of the harmful chemical reactions occurring in your body due to our exposure to pollutants.
Con: Mood swings. Yes, we are still evaluating chocolate, not your girlfriend. The sugar in chocolate can cause swings in the levels of your Endorphins, which are brain chemicals that affect mood.
Pro: With ten times less the amount of caffeine than that of the average serving of coffee, soda, or tea, chocolate is a better way to decrease fatigue. In small doses, caffeine can be beneficial in improving your fat metabolism, exercise endurance, and alertness.
Con: As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.” Similar to the brain processes with addictive drugs, receptors eventually become desensitized to the mood-lifting effect of chocolate, causing you to need more and more of it to get the same endorphin-raising effects.
Pro: The British Medical Journal found evidence showing that eating 100g of dark chocolate per day could reduce blood pressure by enough to decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke by 21%!
Pro: After consuming chocolate, your body converts its Tryptophan to Seratonin in the brain, producing a mood-lifting effect. This is also said to lower stress levels and anxiety.
Lucky for us Valentines Day-chocolate-eating-single people, we came out with more pro’s on our list than cons! Its really not a question of whether chocolate is healthy or not, but a matter of selecting the right kind of chocolate and in the right amount. The best kind of chocolate you can eat is dark chocolate, since it has the highest percentage of cocoa and the least amount of added sugar. Like Chia, cocoa was first discovered by the Aztecs, who believed it to increase wisdom and boost energy levels. Modern day chocolate usually contains additives like sugar or dairy. The closer you can get to the original cocoa powder of the Aztecs, the better. A good target-level is dark chocolate with 72% or more cocoa. White chocolate, containing no cocoa powder, provides none of the health benefits discussed above. Once you go dark, you never go back.
All Valentines Day and “single people” commentary aside, dark chocolate is a guilt-free treat when consumed in moderation. Although the study done by the British Medical Journal was based on a 100g intake of dark chocolate a day, the more common recommendation is about 28g, or 1 ounce, per day. We now have 2 things to thank the Aztecs for!